Review: Emily and Carlo by Marty Rhodes Figley

emily and carlo

Emily and Carlo by Marty Rhodes Figley, illustrated by Catherine Stock

When Emily Dickinson was 19 years old, she was lonely in the big home in New England since her siblings were off at school.  So her father bought her a puppy that she named Carlo.  The quiet and reclusive poet was an odd match with her bounding, huge Newfoundland.  Carlo gave Emily more courage to be out and about, visiting others.  He was with her always, a large drooling dog.  They explored Amherst together with its woods, meadows and ponds.  Their time together inspired her poetry, as shown in this book through stanzas that she wrote.  This friendship with a dog makes this literary figure much more human and approachable for children.  It’s a very special way to see an author.

Figley truly found the key to Emily Dickinson’s personality for children.  All it took was a large messy dog to break through into Dickinson’s quiet, contemplative world.  Interspersing the verse with the story also makes this a friendly window into Dickinson’s work.  The book maintains a fresh, light tone throughout, showing the two friends aging together.

Stock’s art is a radiant mix of playfulness and contemplation, matching the subject matter beautifully.  It shows the deep connection of woman and dog, the natural world they explored, and pays homage to the verse that is embedded in the book. 

A simply lovely look at Emily Dickinson through her love of a pet, this book should be used with anyone working with Dickinson’s poetry and children as a lens through which to view the person and her writing.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

Review: Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes

penny and her song

Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes

Joining the beloved Chrysanthemum, Lilly, Owen and Wemberly is a new mouse character from the incredible Kevin Henkes.  This mouse is named Penny and she has a song to sing.  Unfortunately when she gets home, the babies are sleeping and she’s not allowed to share her song with her mother or father.  Later, she tries to share the song during dinner, but her parents ask her to wait until they are done eating to sing.  Finally, after dinner, Penny shares her song.  Her parents sing it too, they dress up in costumes, and the babies have a surprise reaction too!

Done in short chapters, this is more a beginning reader than a picture book.  Penny is a delight of a character, who when told she has to wait does not complain but tries to find new solutions that will let her sing without breaking the rules.  The final scenes with her parents happily joining in singing demonstrates the love that comes with rules and structure without any harshness being needed.  The illustrations are done in Henkes’ signature style, which is sure to delight all. 

A happy welcome to Penny as she joins this beloved mouse family.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.